How to get Palm-free & Vegan Conditioning Bubbles? - Please Critique

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Hi guys! I've been tweaking and testing my recipes this spring. This recipe is the "base" of my basic bar soaps. Vegan and palm-free are very important in my local market, which is making formulation... tricky.

Trying to "perfect" my base before I start playing with fun colors, designs, and additives. Once I get a solid base recipe down, I do plan on experimenting with other additives that boost lather (beer, sugar, aloe vera, etc.) but I'd rather not rely on additives at this phase of development.

I was relatively happy with my original recipe, as follows:
5% SF, 40% concentration NaOH

25% Olive Oil
10% Jojoba Oil
5% Sweet Almond Oil
5% Grapeseed Oil
5% Castor Oil
20% Coconut Oil (76 degrees)
15% Shea Butter
15% Cocoa Butter

I got the following critiques from testers:
- Not bubbly enough
- Too drying

I also found that I didn't need the jojoba oil at all - despite the middling hardness rating and low longevity number, it was incredibly hard shortly after cutting.

I had a hard time remedying all of these issues simultaneously with my original recipe. I started out tweaking and ended up coming up with a completely different recipe:

Edit: Based on the comments below I have scrapped this second recipe and am going back to tweaking my first recipe, removing jojoba oil.

5% SF, 40% concentration NaOH

20% Coconut Oil
20% Shea Butter
14% Cocoa Butter
18% Castor Oil
1% Rice Bran Oil
5% Hemp Oil
5% Sunflower Oil

I plan on doing a test batch today but I'm curious what your gut reactions to this recipe are?

Castor Oil contributes significantly to both conditioning and bubbly lather, which were the biggest issues my test group had with my previous batches. However, the amount I ended up at is wayyy more than the recommended 5-10%. My biggest concern is that the bar will turn out too sticky/soft.


What vegan and palm-free options would you use in place of the high castor oil to achieve these high conditioning and bubbles measures?

Thanks in advance!
 
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Zany_in_CO

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Links don't work for me. :(

Welcome.gif


Please take a moment to go to the Introduction Forum and tell us a little about yourself, especially about your level of soapmaking experience. This will make it easier for us to help you on your Soapy Journey.

Next, take a cuppa along and explore the Beginners Forum to learn the things we talk about here.

Find the Beginners Learn to Soap Online thread that will help you get off on the right foot for making your first batches. Scroll down to "Lovin' Soap Studio" for sage advice and clear instructions for making CP (Cold Process).

The Basic Trinity of Oils starter formula is a tried & true formula, highly recommended before trying to design your own soap formula. Once you understand what each leg of the three basic oils brings to the whole, you can tweak to your heart's content.

Making as many small batches as you can, as often as you can, will have you up and running with the best of us in about 4 months if you put the time and effort into it. It's best to avoid adding fragrance and color until you have a solid recipe (or 2 or 3) that delivers every time you make it.

Finally, you will want to show off your soaps in the Photo Gallery. We LUV pictures -- even when a batch goes awry. Hopefully that won't happen, but if it does, see it as an opportunity to learn more.

You can also use the Photo Gallery as a log of every batch you make. Include the recipe as well as your comments about how you processed it for future reference. I only wish I had that available to me when I first started making soap in 2003. It's a great way to chronicle your progress in the Wonderful World of Soapmaking!!!

HAPPY SOAPING! :computerbath:
 
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I updated my post to just include the % amounts rather than the screen shots from the soap calculator.

I should add, I have made 5 batches of the original recipe with various colorants and FOs/EOs which all turned out great, plus a 6th batch that did not (I tried using Blue Pea Flower tea in the lye solution and it ate all my color, plus I soaped too hot and it volcanoed - both user error).
 

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Zany_in_CO

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What vegan and palm-free options would you use in place of the high castor oil to achieve these high conditioning and bubbles measures?
Using the Basic Trinity of Oils starter formula:
Olive Oil 35% ~ for emollience, conditioning
Coconut 25% (or PKO* or Babassu) ~ for hardness, lather
Palm or Lard 40% (or GV* Shortening from Walmart) ~ for bulk


Subtitute:
Olive Oil 35%
Coconut 25%
Cocoa Butter 20% (sub for palm/lard/tallow)
Shea Butter 15% (sub for palm/lard/tallow)
Castor Oil 5% for emollience, conditioning & boost lather.

Vegan No Palm.png
 
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It is so funny in all my years of selling and all the markets I sold in I had a total of 2 people complain about my use of palm oil and one came back and bought soap after asking me why I supported the use of palm. He told me he thought about it and actually agreed. Just a note he was a local doctor in Long Beach so a rather crunchy locale. He also became a long-time customer.

As for your recipes, jojoba is a complete waste of money in soap. You could use some soy wax in place of palm. The 5% soft oils really contribute nothing I would consolidate them into one oil. Shea and Cocoa Butter will take away from lather without a long cure time. I make a high shea soap but cure for 6 months. Also with today's prices, shea and high butter soaps are not going to make you any money. Soy wax will add the same longevity properties at a lower cost. Castor oil does not add lather it only supports lather so is a waste and only adds softness to your soap and is expensive but accelerates trace. I know at least one gal here uses soy a lot in vegan soaps and I am sure she will pop in with percentages. I use palm at 40% so I am no help with soy percentages.
 
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It is so funny in all my years of selling and all the markets I sold in I had a total of 2 people complain about my use of palm oil and one came back and bought soap after asking me why I supported the use of palm. He told me he thought about it and actually agreed. Just a note he was a local doctor in Long Beach so a rather crunchy locale. He also became a long-time customer.

As for your recipes, jojoba is a complete waste of money in soap. You could use some soy wax in place of palm. The 5% soft oils really contribute nothing I would consolidate them into one oil. Shea and Cocoa Butter will take away from lather without a long cure time. I make a high shea soap but cure for 6 months. Also with today's prices, shea and high butter soaps are not going to make you any money. Soy wax will add the same longevity properties at a lower cost. Castor oil does not add lather it only supports lather so is a waste and only adds softness to your soap and is expensive but accelerates trace. I know at least one gal here uses soy a lot in vegan soaps and I am sure she will pop in with percentages. I use palm at 40% so I am no help with soy percentages.

Thank you! I was trying to include certain oils that I had read help with lather (hemp, sweet almond) and also have label appeal. (I'm in Colorado, so hempseed oil is big here...)

Where do you generally source soy wax? I have some for candle-making but I have the impression that it's not the same thing.

Additionally, if I am going to use soy I think organic non-GMO is key for my target market, which might negate some of the cost savings.

5% SF is fine but, to my mind, 40% lye concentration may be the reason why your soap is too drying. (Others please feel free to disagree.)

Thank you for the tip. Would you mind explaining this more?

I got the 40% rule of thumb from a YouTuber (Elly's Everyday Soapmaking) - it effectively works out to a 1.5:1 water:lye ratio. So far I like the lower amount of water in my bars - while it does accelerate trace a bit, it also accelerates cure time (or at least seems to, in my dry climate).

Since the total amount of lye is based on the oils, not on the water, why would decreasing the amount of water in the recipe make the soap more drying? Doesn't it all eventually evaporate anyway?

Subtitute:
Olive Oil 35%
Coconut 25%
Cocoa Butter 20% (sub for palm/lard/tallow)
Shea Butter 15% (sub for palm/lard/tallow)
Castor Oil 5% for emollience, conditioning & boost lather.

View attachment 65650

I realize it's not obvious at first glance, but this is basically what I started with for my original base recipe. (Which I'm generally happy with, but needs more bubbles and more conditioning)

35% Olive Oil
25% Olive Oil
5% Sweet Almond Oil (subbed in because I read it lathers well for a high-oleic, and for label appeal)
5% Grapeseed Oil (subbed as a neutral soft oil, mainly because it's cheap for me, also because I was worried about olive oil being too soft. Maybe I'll sub in Rice Bran Oil here?)

25% Coconut Oil
20% Coconut oil <--- decreased slightly because I was worried 25% would be too harsh. Maybe this 5% is where I lost some of my bubbles?
5% subbed for Jojoba oil for hardness, which I now see was pointless.

20% Cocoa Butter
15% Cocoa Butter
5% subbed for Jojoba oil for hardness - I now see this was pointless, can probably put back to 20% Cocoa Butter to achieve the same thing

15% Shea Butter
15% Shea Butter (unchanged)

5% Castor Oil
5% Castor Oil (unchanged)


So basically what I'm getting is:
-Don't add jojoba oil, it doesn't do anything. Increase Cocoa butter back to 20% for hardness.
Ok. No questions.

-Don't bother subbing other oils for Olive Oil.
What about label appeal? Can I get away with subbing in Hempseed oil for 10% or more? What about the high-oleic lather benefits of Sweet Almond Oil? (Note: Grapeseed oil was mainly a soft oil filler to decrease the amount of olive oil and get the "specialty" oils higher up on the label).

Keep Coconut Oil at 25% (not 20%)
How do I balance out the drying nature of Coconut Oil at such a high %? Could I achieve similar lathering results at 20% CO and 10% Castor Oil?



And... my "new" recipe was pretty much me spending way too much time playing around on soap calculators. I think I'll scrap it and go back to tweaking my original recipe some more.

It is so funny in all my years of selling and all the markets I sold in I had a total of 2 people complain about my use of palm oil and one came back and bought soap after asking me why I supported the use of palm. He told me he thought about it and actually agreed. Just a note he was a local doctor in Long Beach so a rather crunchy locale. He also became a long-time customer.

I think it's really a location-specific thing. I'm just outside of Boulder, and most of my markets are in Boulder County. My other markets are in similarly affluent and crunchy-leaning areas, and one is right by a major college. People in this area are VERY concerned about Palm Oil. Soy doesn't have great label appeal, either.

I personally believe that locally sourced tallow and/or lard would be the best option (a lot of my neighbors are ranchers and I have easy access to free-range, grass fed options) but the vegan influence is still very strong and I've received a good amount of negative feedback about animal-derived products.
 
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Thank you for the tip. Would you mind explaining this more?

I got the 40% rule of thumb from a YouTuber (Elly's Everyday Soapmaking) - it effectively works out to a 1.5:1 water:lye ratio. So far I like the lower amount of water in my bars - while it does accelerate trace a bit, it also accelerates cure time (or at least seems to, in my dry climate).

Since the total amount of lye is based on the oils, not on the water, why would decreasing the amount of water in the recipe make the soap more drying? Doesn't it all eventually evaporate anyway?
You are 100% correct - lye concentration doesn't affect how drying the soap will be. That is totally a function of the oils and additives used.

Speaking of additives, if you are trying for a vegan, palm-free bar that isn't too drying, you will probably need some additive to boost the lather. As @cmzaha stated above, castor doesn't create lather; it only stabilizes the lather that is created by other oils or additives. Using aloe vera juice for your water is one of the easiest ways to increase lather. It won't show in the soap calc numbers, but you will see a difference when using the soap. You can also try using dual lye, but that's a bit advanced for someone who is just learning.
 
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You are 100% correct - lye concentration doesn't affect how drying the soap will be. That is totally a function of the oils and additives used.

Thank you for clarifying!

Do you think I should try increasing my superfat % to make a less-drying bar?

Speaking of additives, if you are trying for a vegan, palm-free bar that isn't too drying, you will probably need some additive to boost the lather. As @cmzaha stated above, castor doesn't create lather; it only stabilizes the lather that is created by other oils or additives. Using aloe vera juice for your water is one of the easiest ways to increase lather. It won't show in the soap calc numbers, but you will see a difference when using the soap. You can also try using dual lye, but that's a bit advanced for someone who is just learning.

Yes you're totally right! I'm hoping the increased castor oil will help sustain the lather from the 20% coconut oil.

Thank you so much for the suggestion! I actually have a jug of Aloe Vera Juice sitting next to me as I type. :)

I was planning on trying to narrow down on my base recipe, then trying small batch of the base recipe (sans additives) to compare with a series of variations with the following additives:
  • Variation A: Sub Aloe Vera Juice for water
  • Variation B: Sub Beer for water
  • Variation C: Add Sugar
  • Variation D: Citric Acid (+ 0.6g NaOH) <-- this is mainly because I'm on well water (read: hard) and want to see if it makes a difference)
Once I have an idea of how each of these additives plays with the base recipe on it's own, I'll start working on combining them.

ETA: I do also want to try a dual-lye recipe, but I agree that it's a bit beyond my comfort zone at this point. I'm hoping I'll get there relatively soon, though!
 
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Aloe vera juice is great for label appeal as well as lather - I use it it in every batch ( unless i'm making a coconut cream or oat milk soap).

My soaps are all vegan and palm-free, and I started out with high quantities of shea butter and cocoa butter much like you have. I have now ditched the cocoa butter because it's too expensive - but I've kept shea butter at 10% and added soy wax at 20%. I use GW415, which is marketed for candles, but is perfect for soap too. Remember it is not actually a wax - it's hydrogenated soybean oil.

High butter percentages can decrease lather, as can high superfat.

Castor oil should only be used at a maximum of 10% otherwise it makes a soft soap - most people use it at 5%.

If all your testers have hard water the citric could be a go-er.

Most people agree that 5% of any oil is a waste of time ( unless it's castor) so if you're gonna use an oil - use a decent amount. That said, Hempseed, Grapeseed and Jojoba are not good to use in higher quantities I don't think due to greater likelihood of rancidity. Add to that that they're all pricey and it's a no brainer.

I'm a Rice bran oil aficionado - I use it at 20 - 30 % because it's good, and half the price of Olive Oil.

My recipe tends to make a small-ish bubble, thick creamy lather rather than the big bubbles you might get from using too much CO.
 
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1% rice bran oil isn't going to do much, 5% may...but it's a great oil and affordable so I'd up it, I'd use 15% or more (just watch the linoleic+linolenic in soapcalc). I've used anywhere between 10-30% and I love the results. My main liquid oils are olive and rice bran and they play well together. When I did palm-free, I was over 50% liquid oils, but my lather was bubbly, not creamy. If you are okay with creamy bubbles, keeping the high butter % will work well.

I personally wouldn't use jojoba in my soap (unless I was trying to get rid of some....). It's so expensive and I'd just save it for something nice like a body oil/body butter. I use it in my balms too.

I wouldn't hesitate to use additives for bubbles, in fact, I would recommend sugar and a chelator like citric or sodium gluconate. The hard water is a likely reason there are lather issues (and can contribute to the drying feeling).

I'd also go down to like 15% on coconut personally, but 20% shouldn't be too much for the general population. 20% is definitely enough for bubbles, and 5% castor is enough to stabilize.
 
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@Dooleykins I love how you are absorbing all this info, AND you are willing to test before deciding. Good on ya!

^^ 100% what @Megan and @KiwiMoose said. If you are working with known hard water, then keeping your SF low (3% max as long as CO is also low), using AVJ for water, and adding a chelator are no-brainers.

I personally prefer sodium citrate to citric acid bc no lye adjustment is necessary, and it makes a great cheese sauce. 😊 ETA: and it seems to play more nicely with other additives, like vinegar. Another “crunchy” chelator is sodium gluconate. Haven’t tried it myself but others swear by it.
 
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@Dooleykins. Another “crunchy” chelator is sodium gluconate. Haven’t tried it myself but others swear by it.

I will promote Sodium Gluconate till the cows come home! Love it! I used to use at .5% but now at 1%.
For me, citric/citrate left a crystalline layer on the outside of my soaps which I didn't like aesthetically or texturally. I think I was using 2% at the time...
 
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Aloe vera juice is great for label appeal as well as lather - I use it it in every batch ( unless i'm making a coconut cream or oat milk soap).

Awesome! I love this and think it would do well in my market. Do you have a recommended supplier? Right now I have a 7lb jug from BulkApothecary, but I'm not sure they're the most cost-effective source.

My soaps are all vegan and palm-free, and I started out with high quantities of shea butter and cocoa butter much like you have. I have now ditched the cocoa butter because it's too expensive - but I've kept shea butter at 10% and added soy wax at 20%. I use GW415, which is marketed for candles, but is perfect for soap too. Remember it is not actually a wax - it's hydrogenated soybean oil.

I was hesitant to switch to soy at first (due to GMO and hormone concerns that some customers may have). However, everything I've been reading has been so positive and the price point is VASTLY cheaper than butters, so I think I've been swayed. Soy candles do sell well here, so I don't think there will be too much issue with including it in my soap formulation.

I have a 5lb bag of Soy Wax flakes I got as part of a bulk purchase off of FB Marketplace. The bag just says "CandleScience All Natural Soy Candle Wax (5lb)". It is flakes not pastilles, so based on their website I can tell that it's either 415, 444, or 464 - but I'm not sure which. Since the label doesn't indicate any additives, I am hoping it's 415. I do have a message in to CandleScience support with the barcode number (B0092RKEAS) to see if they can tell me which version it is. I also messaged the original seller. Fingers crossed!

In case it's not 415 - would the additives in 444 or 464 be contraindicated for use in soap? Obviously in future orders I could make sure to get the 415, but since I already have this I thought that my test batches would be a good use for it.

High butter percentages can decrease lather, as can high superfat.

Castor oil should only be used at a maximum of 10% otherwise it makes a soft soap - most people use it at 5%.

Ahhhh so the butters I used for hardener may be the culprit after all. Have you found this issue with Soy Wax at all? Or does it lather well?

I'm still tempted to bump up my castor oil to 10% since it's both conditioning and supports lather. Other than price, is there a strong reason NOT to increase it to 10%?

If all your testers have hard water the citric could be a go-er.

Thanks! Hard water is pretty common in both well water and city water around here, so I think it's a good bet. I noticed some other responses commented that they got white residue on their bars from using citric acid at 2%. Do you think if I used it at 1% I would be able to avoid this?

Most people agree that 5% of any oil is a waste of time ( unless it's castor) so if you're gonna use an oil - use a decent amount. That said, Hempseed, Grapeseed and Jojoba are not good to use in higher quantities I don't think due to greater likelihood of rancidity. Add to that that they're all pricey and it's a no brainer.

I think hempseed oil may still be worth it to include in my recipe for label appeal, especially if I can source it locally (I found one supplier 30 min from me). One YouTuber I follow uses it at 8%. I have also read that it lathers well. Do you think using it at 8-10% is still a waste?

I'm a Rice bran oil aficionado - I use it at 20 - 30 % because it's good, and half the price of Olive Oil.

Thank you! I was really unfamiliar with Rice Bran Oil previously, but I'm loving everything I've read about it. I think I'll sub it in for the Olive Oil as well. It didn't test super well in my market research surveys, but it didn't test poorly either - people just generally didn't know what it was or had never heard of it.

Thank you so much for all of your detailed and helpful advice! I really appreciate it.

1% rice bran oil isn't going to do much, 5% may...but it's a great oil and affordable so I'd up it, I'd use 15% or more (just watch the linoleic+linolenic in soapcalc). I've used anywhere between 10-30% and I love the results. My main liquid oils are olive and rice bran and they play well together. When I did palm-free, I was over 50% liquid oils, but my lather was bubbly, not creamy. If you are okay with creamy bubbles, keeping the high butter % will work well.

Thanks for the tip! I think this go round I will bump it up to 50% liquid oils, split between RBO, OO, and Hempseed oil.

That does increase my linoleic + linolenic to 21 (17 + 4) -- how concerned should I be?

I personally wouldn't use jojoba in my soap (unless I was trying to get rid of some....). It's so expensive and I'd just save it for something nice like a body oil/body butter. I use it in my balms too.

Yeah in hindsight this was a dumb substitution. I was super worried about my bars not being hard enough, but that hasn't been an issue at all. And now I know some other ways of managing that.

I wouldn't hesitate to use additives for bubbles, in fact, I would recommend sugar and a chelator like citric or sodium gluconate. The hard water is a likely reason there are lather issues (and can contribute to the drying feeling).

I definitely plan on using additives in the end product! I've just read a few places that newbies tend to make the mistake of trying to fix a bad base recipe with additives, so I wanted to make sure my base recipe is solid first before I start playing around with additives.

I'd also go down to like 15% on coconut personally, but 20% shouldn't be too much for the general population. 20% is definitely enough for bubbles, and 5% castor is enough to stabilize.

Thanks for the tip! I think I'm going to stick with 20% CO and 5% castor for now, since bubbles was a major complaint. I'll consider decreasing it to 15% if the new formulation still tests as too drying.
 
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@Dooleykins I love how you are absorbing all this info, AND you are willing to test before deciding. Good on ya!

Thanks! My boyfriend thinks I'm nuts, but I know I'll be happier with the end recipe if I take the time to do all these test batches.

^^ 100% what @Megan and @KiwiMoose said. If you are working with known hard water, then keeping your SF low (3% max as long as CO is also low), using AVJ for water, and adding a chelator are no-brainers.

Would 3% SF be too low for 20% CO? I'm hesitant to go below 5% SF.

Definitely going to use AVJ for the water. - Can I sub it 100%? Does it need to be frozen first?

I personally prefer sodium citrate to citric acid bc no lye adjustment is necessary, and it makes a great cheese sauce. 😊 ETA: and it seems to play more nicely with other additives, like vinegar. Another “crunchy” chelator is sodium gluconate. Haven’t tried it myself but others swear by it.

I totally get the sodium citrate reasoning. However, I already have a boatload of citric acid for my bath bombs, so I figured I'd use what I have instead of spending even more money on new ingredients (I feel like I'm hemorrhaging money right now...)

The comments here have definitely peaked my interest in sodium gluconate. I'll be reading a lot more about it and probably ordering some to try in a test batch.

This increases the risk for DOS. Anything over 15 is riskier. Hemp is probably what is pushing it up.

Thanks! I think you're right about it being the hemp. However, right now I really like how high hemp seed oil is on my list of ingredients for label appeal (for context, my small town has 4 pot shops).

I'll try playing with the other ingredients a bit to see if I can decrease the linoleic + linolenic more.

Is there anything else I can do to balance out the higher DOS risk?

Thanks! I think you're right about it being the hemp. However, right now I really like how high hemp seed oil is on my list of ingredients for label appeal (for context, my small town has 4 pot shops).

I'll try playing with the other ingredients a bit to see if I can decrease the linoleic + linolenic more.

Is there anything else I can do to balance out the higher DOS risk?

Alright, subbed in Sweet Almond Oil for 10% of the liquid oils (it has a much lower linoleic + linolenic than the other oils I'm using) and that dropped it down to 16 total. Is that close enough to worry less?
 
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1649437002650.png

Maybe try something like this?
If you wanted to add hemp, you could do something like this...
1649437216381.png


Edit: or use the sweet almond...no 16 isn't "bad" . Make sure to use fresh oils and including a chelator will also help to lower DOS risk
 
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Note: with your butter amount, this soap will likely be a fast mover. The one down side of RBO is that it also hastens trace. All of this combined...if you want to get fancy with your designs, you'll have to test out if that is achievable for you.
 
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